Caustic Gervais returns as Golden Globes host for 'very last time'

Actor and director Ricky Gervais poses for photographers at the world premiere of his film David Brent Life on the Road in London

(Reuters) - After vowing not to front another Golden Globe Awards ceremony and once being told he would never be asked back, caustic British comedian Ricky Gervais will return to host the annual showbiz spectacular for a record 5th time in January.

Gervais, 58, has sharply divided opinion as host, taking direct aim at the Hollywood A-listers in the audience while helping to keep TV viewing figures highs.

"Once again, they've made me an offer I can't refuse," Gervais said on Tuesday, announcing his return for the 77th edition of the award show, which honors television and film.

"But this is the very last time I'm doing this, which could make for a fun evening."

Best known as the creator of TV mockumentary "The Office" and himself a three-time Golden Globe winner, Gervais first hosted the event in 2010.

He caused outrage on his second appearance a year later, insulting organizers with jokes about bribes and taking pot-shots at Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie's critically-panned movie "The Tourist", which was on the list of award nominees.

The president of event host the Hollywood Foreign Press Association said at the time that Gervais would not return.

Paul Teledgy, chairman of NBC Entertainment, which airs the program, said Gervais's reappearance on Jan. 5 meant viewers were in for an "unexpected evening".

"There is always a palpable electricity in the room when Ricky takes the Globes stage," he said. "...We can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve."

This year's event, co-hosted by comedian Andy Samberg and actress Sandra Oh, reached an estimated 18.6 million viewers, organizers said.

Gervais, who has also toured the world with his stand-up comedy show, hosted the Globes from 2010 to 2012 and again in 2016. "They must be mad," he once said of his previous returns.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by John Stonestreet)